The Fresh Loaf

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ciabatta 1, me 0

Gedunkleberg's picture
Gedunkleberg

ciabatta 1, me 0

I took my first stab at ciabatta last night. I used the poolish recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice, which seemed simple enough, but I hit a few fateful snags along the way. Snag #1: Because the poolish was so glutenous and full of air pockets, I could not get it to blend completely with the flour. Thus, as with my attempt at pain sur poolish, I ended up with some lumps in my dough. Should I have tried to deflate the poolish before mixing it with the other ingredients? Snag #2: It seemed like I had to add quite a bit of extra water to achieve the desired slack consistency. I did not measure my poolish, but I assumed it was the amount that the ciabatta called for, because the poolish recipe specifically says that it makes enough for the ciabatta. Snag #3: Even though I floured my counter, the dough got quite stuck during primary fermentation. When it came time for me to divide and shape the loaves, I had no choice but to be rough in order to get the dough off the counter. Thus, I wound up with a dense crumb and only a few small holes. I haven't tasted the bread yet, but it smells good and has a decent crust. I will definitely be trying this recipe again soon, and I will be sure to line my counter with parchment and flour it very heavily.

Comments

luc's picture
luc

I have used that same formula from BBA repeatedly and never run into the problems that you mention regardind the introduction of the poolish to the flour. The poolish is generally soupy enough to blend with the flour with no problems. I would expect the lumps to come if you were using something like a stiffer starter - say a Biga Acida or such.

One thing you might check out is this:
At the point when you introduce the poolish to the flour you don't have to worry about deflating it... you pretty much will have to work the poolish in heavily in order to evenly distribute it with the flour to arrive that final dough. The poolish is not your dough - so really get your head around that it's just another ingrediant that mixes with the flour to make the final dough. Thus no need to be delicate with it... it goes on to bigger and better things once combined with the flour.

After reading your second point about having to add so much extra water to achieve a slack consistancy I can help but wonder if you have made a mistake in the water measurements. That BBA recipe in terms of hydration is more than enough to arrive at a very slack dough for Ciabatta. Double check your measurement and use a checklist as you add the ingredients to make sure you are spot on.

The final dough will be incredibly slack - so slack that it'd drool righ off the counter if you left it too close to the edge during primary fermentation. To avoid the sticking you can use flour or you can also use a wet counter. This is not one of the doughs that is like most dough - where you can knead it heavily and pick it up in one easy to go mass... no this formula really produces a very slack dough this is like trying to get a handle on a squirming 3 year old that's just come out of the bath. :)

You can also hit your counter with a fine misting of spray oil to keep the dough from sticking. Though I find most times that I use just flour and I manage to get it off the counter - err... that is when I don't proof them in a couche - which they are notorious for sticking to no matter how it seems I flour the couche. That is a hint at just how slack and wet this dough is.

Keep at it - and again double check that your water measuerment is spot on. This formula produces a beautiful slack dough - but a dough this slack does take some getting used to in terms of handling. I've seen that it takes several or more sessions of working with this kind of formula to really get it down to where it starts to become intuitive how to handle this kind of dough.

regards,
Luc

Gedunkleberg's picture
Gedunkleberg

Thanks for the tips. I think perhaps I did not add more water than the recipe called for after all, since the recipe calls for 6 Tbsp. to 3/4 of a cup. I started with the 6 Tbsp. and then kept adding tablespoon by tablespoon until I had the right consistency. I very well could have ended up with 3/4 of a cup or less, but when you're adding by the tablespoon, it's easy to lose track. I will keep all of this info in mind...I've got a three-day weekend coming up, so I think ciabatta and I will have a rematch!

luc's picture
luc

Just after reading and replying to your post I made a batch of 10 Ciabatta using double the amount of poolish that is asked for in BBA.
That is... I doubled up on everything including the poolish to get twice the amount of loaves.

The dough wasn't nearly as slack as I remembered - perhaps I had mixed it up with a recent spate of making focaccia. But at any rate - the dough is still more slack than most other doughs - thus you won't really be kneading it as much as most doughs. Folding is the right thing to use on this style of dough. But I'm sure you already found that out.

When I made it I used upwards of 3/4 cup of water (actually in my case since everything was doubled to double the yield I used 1 1/2 cups of water) - but anyhow you get my point - it wasn't far off the formula.

I did pay special attention to liberally flour my counter and couche this time when bulk fermenting and when folding and proofing in the couche. I had no problems with the dough sticking - now... had I not really floured up heavily - then yes it'd have probably stuck to the couche and the counter... so flour was the way to go.

At any rate - hope that helps.

regards,
Luc

Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

Debunkleburg, I recommend a roll-pat sheet. The dough releases with a baker's scraper quite well and requires no additional flour.